Simple strategy guide for passing your AGACNP boards on the first try. Nursing Students NP Students Article


I wrote a similar article when I passed my FNP exam back in 2014, and still receive feedback from people thanking me, so I thought a similar review would be helpful for the AGACNP exam since I recently passed that as well.

1) Start planning NOW!

If it's you last semester of school or even you final year, now is the time to start planning. The closer you test to when you graduate, the more successful you will be.

2) Attend a live review

I like Barkley and find his lectures pretty funny. These folks are experts at making concepts you've struggled with seem easy, and there's are reason why they boast a greater than 99% pass rate. Their schedule for live AGACNP reviews is pretty sporifice compared to FNP reviews, so if your schedule doesn't allow, definitely buy his CD's. It's all pricey, but if you have a job on the line, a small investment will pay big dividends.

3) Buy a study manual

The manual you get from the Barkley live review is like gold (I swear I don't work for him). It has what you need to know, in a concise format, and what's in the book is what's on the test. It's not filled with a bunch of needless fluff. If you go to his review you are killing two birds with one stone.

4) Practice questions!

I love using practice questions when prepping to study, especially if you get to review the rationale as you go. The questions that are almost identical to the format you will see on the exam are the sample questions found on the ANCC website for free, and the practice package you can buy through the ANCC website (actually takes you to the ANA website) for $125. Worth it as these are exactly the style of the real test.

-Boardvitals has a large database of questions as well, that I enjoyed using. Overall though, these questions are a lot more wordy and difficult than the real exam, which I like since it makes taking the real exam seem easier. You can buy 1-6 month access for the exam, and if you buy anything over 3 months they guarantee you will pass.

-Barkley Readiness Exams are pretty good too, but they are also much more difficult than the real deal. I took one at the end of my program last December and got a 71, which is very good according to him. Right before I took the exam I bought one and scored a 59, which is failing. I was much better at taking the ANCC provided material, which I think is more important since they give the test. Like Boardvitals, I think Barkley uses harder content to make the test seem easier.

5) Be careful on here

This website is a great resource for people, but it also is littered with posts about people failing their exam, and it can freak you out. When you read threads on here about people not passing, they all usually didn't attend a live review course. I promise they're worth it no matter what company you choose. If they did fail and did attend a live review, they're literally in the bottom 1% of all individuals, so reading into what they did might not prove too helpful. They're a rare anomaly.

Also remember that a vast majority of people pass this test on the first try, and most people don't go and celebrate it on a message board. It's people that are unsuccessful that come to places like this to vent and seek comfort. It can be helpful to understand what people did and possibly see where they went wrong, but don't let it discourage you or make you anxious.

That's pretty much it. Stay confident, do a live review, and do lots of practice questions and you'll be good to go.

Feel free to PM me or post if you have further questions.

FNP-C, AGACNP-BC. Been an APRN since 2014 and currently work as a hospitalist in an independent practice state. Went back and got my AGACNP when I realized my job required skills and knowledge more tailored to that role.

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Specializes in Critical Care.

In your experience did you find any books useful for the exam (besides Barkley)? There does not appear to be a large selection.

Specializes in Internal Medicine.

I didn't really look for anything other than Barkley. Compared to FNP's, AGACNP's have pretty slim pickings when it comes to study resources. Having used Barkley when I got my FNP, I already knew I was going to be using a resource that I trusted, so I didn't really try to find something else. His review manual that comes with his live review or CD's is really all you need in terms of printed materials.

Hello Riburn3

I am 2 weeks away from the ANCC exam (August 6) do you think it would be worth taking the Barkley live 1 week before the exam (only time offered in my city). I have done his home study with the manual and just wondering if they are similar and if paying to take the live course 1 week out from my exam is worth it. Thank you

Specializes in Internal Medicine.

Honestly, if you have the money and time I would say it's worth it. I think it's better to overkill it and pass. You don't want to be in a situation where you fail and then regret not doing it. There will certainly be some overlap but the live review is so engaging and you'll remember some of his jokes related to content while you're in the middle of the exam.

Thank you so much for your quick response, I thought the same thing, don't want to regret later!

Thank you for writing this article! I went to the Barkley Live Review and all the previous AGACNP students who took the exam swear by it! I just purchased the BoardVitals and I love that it gives me rational for all of the choices. I also plan on purchasing the Barkley DRTs and ANCC practice questions.

I am trying to go through the Barkley manual and do practice tests every day just to get myself used to the tests.

Right now, I am most anxious about the time. I feel that 4 hours to answer 200 questions, that is 1.2 min per question, which I feel is insufficient. Although 25 questions are practice, they is no way to tell so you still have to answer those questions.

Do you have any advice on how to take the test? Did you feel that the 4 hours was enough?

P.S. Congrats on passing the exam! :)

Specializes in Internal Medicine.

I'm a fast test taker and finished in an hour and a half.

I promise there will be lots of questions you read and will know the answer before you read the choices. The way you are studying and your prep sounds perfect. 4 hours should be more than enough.

Just passed my ANCC AGACNP and wanted to reaffirm all of the advice by Riburn3. I read this post a few months back and basically used it as my blueprint. I was nervous about sticking to the Barkley content but it was spot on. I attended a live session and agree there are some true pearls to be gained... but if it's too much of a stretch just be sure you know the manual down cold. As the content blueprint indicates, there are lots of questions on areas not related to assess and treat... from Medicare, to ethics, to QSEN and CPI. Thanks Riburn3 and good luck to everyone prepping!!!!

I attended a Barkley review and thought it was great. I have the CD's and am using flash cards made from the cd/review content. I scored a 59 on the first Barkley practice test following the review and am using Board Vitals and doing as many questions as my brain can handle. Unfortunately I am scoring anywhere from 40-76 on those sample questions. Took one today (100 questions) and got a 49. Should I be worried? I am studying every day some and at least 3 days a week for greater than 6 hours. My test is in just under 2 weeks.

looking for any other tips for success.

Hello, Lewis 2219 I am in the same boat as you, just attended the Barkley review as well in June. although I am taking the ancc cert exam on July 8th. My plan is to do the online tests Barkley has to offer. I am also using board vitals. I also purchased a booklet of acute care practice questions from the aacn association of critical care going for anything that I think will help. I wish you the best, don't worry Barkley supports 99% pass rate we just have to mastery of the information.

Specializes in Internal Medicine.

Both of you sound like you’re putting in the effort and are on the right track.

I scored all over the place on practice exams. The Barkley practice tests are in my opinion much harder than the real deal.

Keep doing what youre doing and maintain a positive positive mental attitude and you’ll succeed.